(c. 330 B.C. - 327 B.C.) Alexander the Great crushed the Achaemenid Empire. By the time he stood on the threshold of Afghanistan the last Achaemenid King, Darius III, lay dead, murdered by his Bactrian allies. Alex-ander's armies momentarily exulted in the belief that their task was complete; they yearned to be homeward bound. But the young, still in his twenties, conqueror dreamed of equaling, if not sur-passing the conquests of Darius I. Furthermore, he smarted with anger on hearing that Bessus, murderer of Darius and chief of the Bactrians, had assumed the titles of the Achaemenid kings and was gathering an army.
In 330 B.c. Alexander started east. His direct pursuit of Bessus was, however, checked by revolt in Aria (Herat). Turning south, covering 75 miles in two days, he quickly subdued the surprised rebels and moved on into Drangiana (along the Hilmand) and from there relentlessly pushed on into Arachosia (Kandahar and Ghazni), on to Paropamisadae (Kabul-Charikar), up the Panjsher Valley and over the Khawak Pass to Drapsaka (Kunduz). The two chief cities of Bactria, Aornos (Tashkurghan) and Bactra (Balkh), surrendered without resistance in the spring of 329 B.C.
Establishing a base camp at Bactra, Alexander pursued the rebels across the Oxus. Bessus was captured, put into chains and executed. Some Bactrian chieftains offered their submission and were confirmed in their satrapies; many fought on with the aid of nomadic groups mounted on swift horses. Two years of cam-paigns brought less than total success. Furthermore, increasing opposition to Alexander's assumption of god-like airs, and his adoption of Persian dress and court ceremonial led to conspiracies, executions and distressing disquiet within the camp. It was time to move on and Alexander turned to the conquest of India. With characteristic haste he took only ten days to move his army back over the Hindu Kush to the Charikar area.
An estimated 27-30,000 fighting men moved at his command. They followed the Panjsher River to its junction with the Kabul River and then moved on to Jalalabad where Alexander divided this huge force, sending the main army through the Khyber Pass area while he took a small mobile force to deal with the tribes in the mountains above the Kunar River, in the area known today as Nuristan. From here he passed into Swat. Campaigns in the Punjab and in Sind continued until 326 B.c. when his troops, at long last, forced a return to their homeland.
Alexander established several Alexandrias in the Afghan area and many cities in Afghanistan claim the honour of being so found-ed, but no conclusive archaeological evidence exists. Even Balkh, traditionally thought to be the site of Bactra, has failed to oblige the archaeologists' spades. Kandahar lays claim to being Alexandria-ad-Arachosia and the discovery there of two inscrip-tions in the Greek language certainly points to a flourishing Greek community living in old Kandahar. When they came, however, is still debated. Evidence to support the theory that Ai Khanoum (discussed below) may in fact have been first established by Alexan-der as Alexandria-ad-Oxiana, increases with each year's excava-tions, however.
- Afghanistan by Louis Dupree